OMAHA, Neb. — Democrat Bob Kerrey is receiving an endorsement from former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel on Thursday, a potential boost in his effort to pull ahead in Nebraska's tight race for an open Senate seat. Republicans supporting GOP hopeful Deb Fischer scoffed and suggested Mr. Hagel was sniffing around for a Cabinet seat in the Obama administration.
"His interest was more at the international level than it was Nebraska," said Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, a personal friend of Mr. Hagel's who pointed out that the former senator angered the GOP with criticism of former President George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq War.
"I think at the end of the day, people are going to look at this endorsement and see it for what it is," Mr. Johanns added. "I think it's a step in his path to try to build those bone fides that he is truly an Obama person and deserves a place in his Cabinet."
Mr. Kerrey and Mr. Hagel served together for four years before Mr. Kerrey left Washington in 2001; Mr. Hagel retired from the Senate eight years later.
The pairing could bolster Mr. Kerrey's argument that he would cross party lines if elected, and endear him to undecided voters who are starting to pay attention in the race's final week. Mr. Kerrey is locked in a tight contest with Ms. Fischer, a Republican state senator, to replace Democrat Ben Nelson, who decided not to seek a third six-year term.
Obama gaining ground on Romney in Wisconsin
President Obama has stretched his lead in Wisconsin over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, according to a poll released Wednesday.
A new Marquette University Law School poll shows the president with a lead of 51 percent to 43 percent among likely Wisconsin voters, giving him his largest lead in the Badger State since last September.
The poll also found that Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin is leading in the state's U.S. Senate race, 47 percent to 43 percent, over former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson.
Mr. Obama has been favored to win Wisconsin throughout much of the campaign, but some recent polls have shown Mr. Romney within striking distance.
Candidates agree on role of government for disasters
WILMINGTON — In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, candidates for U.S. House and Senate agree that the federal government has a role in helping states respond to natural disasters.
Incumbent Democratic Rep. John C. Carney Jr. and Sen. Thomas R. Carper, along with their Republican challengers, Tom Kovach and Kevin Wade, agreed at a candidate forum Thursday that while state and local governments should lead disaster response efforts, the federal government has an important role in providing resources and other assistance.
Alex Pires Jr., an independent candidate who also is challenging Mr. Carper, skipped the Rotary Club debate, telling sponsors early Thursday that he was directing a food shipment to storm victims in New Jersey.
The Senate candidates also were scheduled to meet later Thursday at a debate sponsored by the Urban League of Wilmington.
Women conceived from rapes make video for Mourdock
INDIANAPOLIS — Women born as a result of rape are defending Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock in the waning days of a campaign that has been shaken up by the Senate candidate's comments on rape and abortion.
The women call Mr. Mourdock a hero for opposing abortion in cases of rape and incest in a new video from the Chicago-based One Nation Under God Foundation.
One Nation Executive Director Paul Caprio said Thursday the video is being spread online through social networks, but that there are no plans to air the video on TV.
Mr. Mourdock said in a debate last week that all life is precious and from God. Thus when pregnancy results from rape, that life also is something "God intended." The remarks have reshaped the tight Indiana Senate race and gave Democrats a new line of criticism to use against him.
McCaskill accuses GOP challenger of being extreme
LEBANON — Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill is telling Republican-leaning rural Missourians that challenger Rep. W. Todd Akin would be part of "a very small caucus of extremists" if elected to the U.S. Senate.
She used a high school in Lebanon as a backdrop Thursday to emphasize Mr. Akin's desire to abolish the federal Department of Education.
Mr. Akin was focused Thursday on fundraising and private meetings. But the Republican-leaning Now or Never Political Action Committee has come to his defense with an ad urging supporters of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to also vote for Mr. Akin.
Ms. McCaskill called the ad "ironic." She noted that Mr. Romney had called on Mr. Akin to quit after Mr. Akin remarked in August that women's bodies have ways of avoiding pregnancy in what he described as "legitimate rape."
Don't expect much change in Congress next year
Americans rail about Congress, giving low marks to the bitterly divided legislature.
Yet next week, when the votes are counted, the nation is poised to resoundingly rehire a big majority of the 535 members of the House and Senate.
One of the main reasons so many lawmakers will return to Washington is the help that many get from the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional districts. Another is the power of incumbency with its name recognition and cash advantages.
At least 15 senators of the 22 seeking re-election are expected to cruise to new terms. The same is true for at least 330 House members from coast to coast.
Warren ad tweaks Brown for refusing debate offer
BOSTON — Democrat Elizabeth Warren is tweaking Massachusetts Sen. Scott P. Brown for refusing a final debate offer.
The fourth debate was planned for Tuesday, but was delayed because of Superstorm Sandy.
Ms. Warren agreed to a Thursday debate, but the GOP's Mr. Brown declined. He had twice pledged that a final debate would happen, but a Brown aide said it conflicted with a bus tour he planned for the close of the re-election campaign.
In Ms. Warren's new radio ad, a narrator faults Mr. Brown for backing out of the debate, saying "rather than discuss the issues, he had to grab a bus" and adding "with his record you can't blame him for hitting the road."
Mr. Brown also released two new radio ads, including one featuring former Democratic Boston Mayor Ray Flynn praising Mr. Brown as independent.
Labor leaders say volunteers will be out helping Obama
Labor leaders expect 128,000 volunteers to campaign for President Obama and other union-friendly candidates during the final four days before the Nov. 6 election.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says union members would knock on 5.5 million doors, make 5.2 million phone calls and mail 12 million fliers between Saturday and Election Day.
The union federation is focusing much of its strength in the battleground state of Ohio, where about 13.4 percent of all workers belong to a union.
Unions have a strong campaign infrastructure in Ohio after working last year to pass a ballot measure that repealed a law curbing collective bargaining rights for public workers. That measure passed with 62 percent of the vote.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports